Police Are Our Government: Politics, Political Science, and the Policing of Race-Class Subjugated Communities


Joe Soss and Vesla Weaver

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Soss, Joe, Vesla Weaver (2017) Police Are Our Government: Politics, Political Science, and the Policing of Race–Class Subjugated Communities. Annual Review of Political Science. First posted online on March 15, 2017. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-polisci-060415-093825
Against the backdrop of Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement, we ask what the American politics subfield has to say about the political lives of communities subjugated by race and class. We argue that mainstream research in this subfield—framed by images of representative democracy and Marshallian citizenship—has provided a rich portrait of what such communities lack in political life. Indeed, by focusing so effectively on their political marginalization, political scientists have ironically made such communities marginal to the subfield’s account of American democracy and citizenship. In this article, we provide a corrective by focusing on what is present in the political lives of such communities. To redress the current imbalance and advance the understandings of race and class in American politics, we argue that studies of the liberal-democratic “first face” of the state must be complemented by greater attention to the state’s more controlling “second face.” Focusing on policing, we seek to unsettle the mainstream of a subfield that rarely inquires into governmental practices of social control and the ways “race-class subjugated communities” are governed through coercion, containment, repression, surveillance, regulation, predation, discipline, and violence.
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